Between the 17th and 30th of August 2005 I was performing with Holly at 'Holly's Hot Spot' at the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh. I decided to keep a casual record of my day to day activities in the form of a blog, so here it is. Exactly as typed in each day during the trip, starting at the bottom of this page and ending at the top with a list of reviews the show received.
Tuesday 30th August 2005 : Packing up and heading out. Holly and Ray are staying around for a couple of days. Regards to Ian for the use of his beautiful flat. Thanks to 'CHANGE UR PASSWORD' for the wireless connection during the festival!
Monday 29th August 2005 : Our last day. Steve and John left this morning for California. Mallory and Barbara left for Germany. Tanya has taken over from Allison as Holly's onstage dressing assistant. Ray may have cracked a rib from a fall he took while dancing a couple of days ago so we are trying to find a doctor to take a look. We attached the last reviews to flyers and Holly headed for the Royal Mile, birdcage on head, for the last time this year. I decided to follow in Steve and John's footsteps and climb Arthur's Seat. It is a beautiful day so I got a marvellous view of Edinburgh and environs. We had almost a full house for the show. It was a great last show and much fun was had by all. I took some pics of the band, Holly and audience onstage during the performance... ... Holly got to play her encore 'Don't Bang On That Piano' one more time. After the show we packed away the equipment in my car which I took back to the house, jumped on my bicyle and went back for one last blow at the Jazz Bar. I got the call that Ray had decided not to fly back to California in the morning so I was off the hook for the airport run. Paul and I had a few beers, I played a couple of tunes with Bill and then headed off into the sunset ( rise ).
Sunday 28th August 2005 : I just found out about a Times review which was published on the 24th. You can't please all of the people, all of the time! But if this is the worst review Holly gets then she will be doing well. In additions Three Weeks also reviewed us, so in the end the Hot Spot did pretty well on the review front. Everyone apart from Holly ( Steve, John, Ray, Mallory, Barbara, Tanya and myself ) got together for a farewell dinner at Est Est Est. The Hot Spot was hot as ever and I jammed with Paul, Callum and Adam after the gig.
Saturday 27th August 2005 : Some people that have been to the Hotspot have submitted reviews to the Scotsman's 'Your Voice' page on their website. Here is what they say.............................. I went along to Ryans where Ricky Steel ( Hot Spot bass ), was playing with Brian Kelloch ( piano ) and Jimmy Wood ( alto ) at lunchtime. They sounded fantastic. Chamber jazz at it's best. Jimmy kindly invited me to sit in and we played 'There Will Never Be Another You', 'You Don't Know What Love Is', a ripping 'Bernie's Tune' featuring great stride playing from Brian, 'East Of The Sun' and finally Parker's 'Au Privave' - a blues. Jimmy is at Ryans ( Hope street just off Princes street ) every saturday lunchtime and is well worth seeing. The evenings Hot Spot had a good crowd and Holly's repartee was particularily sparkling. Afterwards I checked out Paul, Ed, Hayden and Conrad who were playing at the C Venue jazz club. They sounded great and I joined them for the final blues of the evening around 3.00am.
Friday 26th August 2005 : We have a 5 star review for the Hotspot in Metro magazine, a local free paper that reviews most of the Fringe shows. Still no sign of the Scotsman and all a little late in the day to help the show. We duplicated the Metro review and attached it to the flyers Holly has been distributing on the Royal Mile. I went to see Camille at the famous Speigel tent and was very impressed. She is a strong singer and a charismatic performer. The show fitted perfectly in the decadent surroundings of the tent. The band supported her well and the choice of material, though a little dark and tuneless for my tastes, suited her audience down to the ground. A well deserved encore brought the show to a satisfying conclusion. At the Hotspot attendance was up dramatically. I guess the good reviews are starting to have an effect. I look forward to full houses over the final few days. I went to 80 Queen street for the 'late' night jam but at one o'clock the band were packing up due to lack of interest. A shame for such a nice location.
Thursday 25th August 2005 : It's a nice day so I decided to cycle over the Forth Road Bridge. There is a great off road cycle path almost all the way from Edinburgh to the bridge. Great. Whilst on the bridge looking at the railway bridge I penned the following commerative verse in the style of the Great McGonagall..............
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the silv'ry Forth,
south, east and west,
I am very pleased to say that,
without doubt the Forth Bridge is by far the best,
viewed on the last thursday of August two thousand and five,
which will be remember'd for as long as I am alive.
Tried to get tickets to see Camille in the Speigel Tent in George Square Gardens but was sold out. Bought a ticket for tomorrow. The Hot Spot went well but audience extremely thin on the ground. The Scotsman review hasn't appeared in the paper so I think we are going to be struggling to get people to come to the show till the end of the run. Ce la vie.
Wednesday 24th August 2005 : Slept very late. Picked up our replacement radio microphone from excellent and helpful Sound Control music shop on Grassmarket. A pre release copy of the Scotsman review by Kate Copstick arrives. It raves about Holly but bizarrely only gives her four stars. What do you have to do for five stars around here? Had dinner with the boys at the Verandah Indian restaurant. Fairly average Indian cuisine in comparison to what is available in Brick Lane in London but friendly service and pictures of the staff with Clint Eastwood on the wall. ( the pictures were on the wall, not Clint and co. ). Hot Spot was great as ever. We were reviewed last night by the Scotsman ( Kate Copstick ) and Metro ( Nadine McBay ) but no reviews published so far. Something in the press would really help ticket sales. I retired to the JazzBar after the show and was immediately collared by Bill Kyle and invited on stage. Played 'Softly As In A Morning Sunrise' with a terrific rhythm section and brilliant young soprano player to good effect. Stayed on stage for a version on 'Birk's Works' with vocal improvised ( melody and lyrics! ) interludes and a cool 'Like Someone In Love' ( I must look at the chord changes when I wake up later today ). Early to bed at 3.30am.
Tuesday 23rd August 2005 : Slept rather late. Wrote a restaurant review for Bellini's then headed off to see 'Confessions Of A Jingle Writer' at the Pleasance. An entertaining show, if rather close to home. Tom Hodge describes the pitfalls of taking briefs from creatives and the dangers of being asked to compose 'soundalikes' in a witty talk, interspersed by demonstrations on the piano. Amusing rather than rib-ticklingly funny. I must suggest to Charlie Spencer that he brings the Duchess of Crouch End up to the festival next year and combines anecdotes of life in advertising with performances on the ukelele. Met my uncle Tommy at Waverley station at 7.00pm and we retired to theTass, on the Royal Mile, for a glass of wine and haggis, neaps and tatties. Around 8.30 we went to the Jazz Bar to catch a set from the Russian trumpeter Valerie Ponomerov. The band ripped into a fastish version of Clifford Brown's 'Joyspring' and were doing justice to 'Out Of Nowhere' when I had to leave for my own gig. The Hotspot was hot as usual. A good sized audience were entertained in great style by Holly and she capped off the show with a rendition of 'Don't Bang On That Piano' with Holly at the piano in question. Apparently their were reviewers from the Scotsman and Metro in the house so we hold our breath bated for the resulting articles. I played a couple of sets at the venue jazz club helped out by guest saxophonist Doug on 'Miss Jones' and a ridiculously fast 'Straight, No Chaser'. All good fun. By the time we had finished the Jazzbar was closing so Tommy and I had a beer round the corner and I dropped him off at Waverley in time for the 5.50am train for Glasgow.
Monday 22nd August 2005 : A fairly uneventful day. Played a bit in Rose Street. Gig went particularily well in spite of a rather small audience. Went to Bill Kyle's Jazzbar and played a bizzarre series of tunes including 'I Shot The Sheriff' and 'Well You Needn't' done as a samba at a ridiculous tempo. Had a nice chat with Anna and Isobel from Spain. I finally left around 4.30pm.
Sunday 21st August 2005 : It's a beautiful day so I decided to have a bit of a cycle. I headed out towards Arthur's Seat and came upon the new Scottish Parliament building and Hollyrood Park. The park was full of people and the air was filled with the skirl of the pipes. I had arrived during PipeFest 2005. I left my bike and proceeded to climb up Salisbury Crag. About half way up I had a marvelous view of the road through the park along which proccessed a never ending series of pipe bands. Since pipes are tuned to one key with a drone note, the tune of each band blended into the next. The drone hung in the air like musical glue. At any one time I could hear one band fading out to my right, a dominant melody coming from the band in front of me and the tune of the band approaching from the left fighting for attention. It was a unique and unexpected musical experience. The magical spell was only broken after I had been listening for around 20 minutes. A discordant honking was discernable, coming from my left and getting louder all the time. It was a brass band, incongruously belting out Colonel Bogey in a key that clashed horribly with the diatonic pipes. I don't know what possessed the organizers of PipeFest to included a brass ensemble in the parade. Hopefully they will read this and reconsider for PipeFest 2006. I completed my climb to the top of the Crag and from this vantage had an excellent view of the parliament building. It is landscaped to blend into the surrounding hills. It will be interesting to see if the passing of the years tempers the look of the building materials which are a bit shiny and new as yet. On closer inspection I noticed large parts of the structure is constructed with concrete rather than stone. I found this vaguely disappointing considering the grandeur of many of the other major Edinburgh buildings. Ray, Steve, John and I ate at Bellini's before the show. They feature a ravioli stuffed with haggis which John enjoyed, steve and I tasted and Ray thought better to avoid. Having tasted it I an inclined to think that Ray made the wise choice. The show featured a lively audience and was good fun apart from the radio microphone blowing up. I played with Paul, Chris and Callum in the C venue 34 jazz club on floor 2 till around 3.00 then headed back to the ranch.
Saturday 20th August 2005 : Holly's nephews Steve and John arrived from the Bay Area today. They seem to have brought Californian weather with them, so Holly and I attempt some more on the streets promotion. I set up on the Royal Mile and was doing quite well at getting attention until forced to stop by some fringe officials ( jobsworths ), who reckoned I needed a permit. Since I was disturbing no one and definitely entertaining a few, I thought this rather churlish and against the spirit of the fringe, but complied and moved round the corner to Cockburn Street where I was joined by Holly. This location was not as efficacious as the Mile until Holly changed into her costume featuring a birdcage on her head. This literally stopped people in their tracks, so we have found a secret weapon in the war of show promotion! Around 7.30pm I went to see the one man show 'Steiner Graffiti' in which Donna has been doing lights. Impressive episodes of character acting rapped up in some preposterous cods wallop about Rudolph Steiner and his seemingly ( from what I understood from the play ) fairly bogus ideas. The Hot Spot goes from strength to strength. It was nice to see Elaine and family in the audience. We retired to the Halion for an after show drink before heading to Albany Street.
Friday 19th August 2005 : I decided to try some on street promotion for the show today so took my sax, a couple of posters and some flyers down to Rose street and played for a couple of hours to the New Town shoppers. I don't know how effective this was at getting people to the Hotspot but I made £20.00 or so. It seemed churlish to refuse the money on the grounds that I was really there promoting a show! Another fabulous performance from Holly at the Hotspot. We are still waiting for a review in one of the dailys. We have however, a rave review in a weekly magazine. ScotsGay. After the show Paul Kirby and his trio backed a pleasant singer in the C Venues after hours jazz club. We checked out the first set and then bailed out to have an early night ( 3.30am ).
Thursday 18th August 2005 : Another day at the ( Fringe ) office. We are in a routine now of getting up late to recover from the previous night to conserve energy for the evenings performance. I went to see a late afternoon performance of Guy Pratt's 'Bass and Other Animals'. The show consisted of tour and studio anecdotes involving Pink Floyd, Madonna, Roxy Music and a host of other celebs interspersed by short performances of basslines we have loved ( Chic, Floyd, Duran Duran etc ). Well done Guy. I found the show hugely entertaining and very funny. Good luck for the rest of your run. 'Holly's Hotspot' went smoothly and Ricky Steel on bass fitted into the mix with ease. The show was well attended and well received. Afterwards I checked out our drummer, Chris Wallace's funk/hip hop/rap/reggae band. They are a rap outfit with musical backing that ranges from dub and funk to jazz. I enjoyed their set a lot. The guitarist ( name to follow ) in particular had a unique approach to playing and is clearly a musician of the future.
Wednesday 17th August 2005 : Got up late. Cycled to Colinton during the day and had lunch with Mike and Elaine. Also met Katie ( a fellow saxophonist and M and E's daughter ) and we played a few choruses of Autumn Leaves together, accompanied by Elaine on guitar. Tonight is the last gig for Ed Kelly our bassist. Tomorrow Rickie takes over. Another good performance of the show ( still no reviews however ) followed by a visit to the Jazz Bar. Holly came also with Ray, her father. Holly did well performing a jazz history version of 'I Got Rhythm' and Ray brought the house down with a spirited rendition of 'Bye, Bye Blackbird'. I played 'My Romance' and a couple of other tunes including backing Corliss Randall on a raunchy blues.
Tuesday 16th August 2005 : I knew I shouldn't have drunk those two bottles of Magners cider. Remind me not to pay attention to anything Paul Kirby says about the benign effects of local drinks. Holly and I attempt to busk on the Royal Mile late in the afternoon. We manage to get some attention and pass out a few flyers ( with Donna's help ) but it is hard going performing with no amplification, particularly for Holly. The show goes very well and attendance is up. The band are in the groove now and sounding great. Paul was having a night off from the late night jazz so I went next door to the Jazz Bar in Chambers Street and sat in at the jam there. It's a lively bar with a great atmosphere. I'll probably go back tomorrow.
Monday 15th August 2005 : Slept late while recovering from the last few late nights. The afternoon was spent cycling down to Leith and attempting to get to the Forth Bridge. I gave up due to some dubious weather and bad navigation ( via Leith ). Went to a party in the early evening before setting off for the gig. Attendance is down tonight ( not totally unexpected ) but a good show none the less in spite of Holly's slightly scratchy throat ( too too much sangria ) and some peculiar radio interference on the mike. I played a couple of sets with Paul's band before wending my way back to Albany Street.
Sunday 14th August 2005 : The day of the first performance. Up at 10.00am to finish the technical rehearsal at C venues 34. The previous night we were in competition with a jazz group playing in the room next to the venue and so were unable to soundcheck. Holly is a bit froggy at this time in the morning but the band sound good. Holly's father, Ray (88 years old!), turns up in town having flown in from SF ( three hours late due to the BA strike ). We get a call from the Hub where he is sipping cocktails with some new found friends. At 4.00pm we performed a couple of songs in the 'Meadows' cabaret tent ( to good effect ) then, on to a another rehearsal with our alternate bass player Ed. Arrived at C Venues 34 at 10.30pm. The previous show overran so we didn't get into the theatre till 11.00pm ( showtime 11.15pm! ). Set up the p.a., spotlight, props and moved the grand piano from the back room onto stage. Holly has forgotten her wig so the band start the show without her as Jason taxi's back to the apartment to get it. 15minutes later, with wig in place, Holly steps on stage. An hour and a half later the crowd go wild. I think we might have a hit. Holly signs autographs and sells cd's while I play a few tunes with the Paul Kirby trio at the jazz club next to the venue.
Saturday 13th August 2005 : Arrived in Edinburgh around 2.00am this morning. Holly has been here for a couple of days and has organized a great flat in Albany Street. After a few hours sleep we met up with our band, the Paul Kirby trio ( minus the bass player ), in the basement of the Forest Cafe. We had a good rehearsal and things are looking promising for the first show tomorrow. We have the evening off so I'm hoping to see Guy Pratt's 'My Bass & Other Animals'. Technical rehearsal at midnight at C Venues 34 proves to be disorganized but manage to set the stage and prepare some light cues.